Gartner: Top strategic predictions for 2022 and beyond

Do we need bosses anymore? Is tricky behavior a key enterprise metric? Will synthetic data rule?

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Expect the unexpected – that’s just one of the core premises IT leaders need to embrace in the next few years, according to Gartner's top strategic predictions for 2022 and beyond.

IT leaders need to be able to move in multiple strategic directions at once, said Daryl Plummer, distinguished research vice president and Gartner Fellow, to the virtual audience at the firm’s IT Symposium/Xpo Americas, held this week.

“Resilience, opportunity and risk have always been components of good business strategy, but today these issues hold new meaning,” Plummer said. “This year’s predictions embody how resilience must be built in more non-traditional ways, from talent to business modularity, while opportunity and risk must be viewed with a greater sense of urgency.”

A good number of Gartner’s 2022 top strategic predictions are made up of human-related trends rather than technology expectations, which perhaps reflects the changing face of the working world.

For example, one of the more thought-provoking trends foretold by Plummer is that by 2024, 30% of corporate teams will be without a boss due to the self-directed and hybrid nature of work.

“The role of the manager as the commander-and-controller of work is a major impediment in an era where business agility requires team empowerment and autonomy,” Plummer said. “Planning, prioritizing and organizing work efforts still must happen, but it is essential to decouple ‘management’ from the traditional ‘manager’ role to reap the benefits of business agility and hybrid work.”

The pandemic embedded agility inside business operations and streamlined business processes, Plummer said. That includes a shift from central decision-making to peer-to-peer network-based decision-making, which reduces bottlenecks and saves time in a hybrid working environment. As hybrid work continues, removing the traditional manager role can be a more pragmatic route to efficiency, Plummer said.

Additional forecast trends include the following.

By 2024, 40% of consumers will trick behavior-tracking metrics to intentionally devalue the personal data collected about them, making it difficult to monetize.

The idea here is people want to withhold data or fake out companies that want to collect data so that those businesses cannot monetize their personal information, Plummer said. People wear masks in some cases to fool facial recognition software, and everyone has a burner e-mail address they use to keep data separate. People are doing more and more to trick systems into not learning about them, Plummer said.

“By manipulating algorithms and spoiling databases, consumers are defying the adage that insists ‘if you’re not a customer, you’re the product,’” said Plummer. “Whether motivated by privacy and security concerns, exposure to misinformation or desire for personal monetary gain, consumers are aiming to devalue the behavioral data companies have come to rely upon.”

By 2025, synthetic data will reduce personal customer data collection, avoiding 70% of privacy violation sanctions.

The driving principal here is that people want sovereignty over their private personal information and data, Plummer said. The trend of using data generated by artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, known as synthetic data, is gaining momentum.

“Synthetic data makes AI truly prophetic, as it can represent future alternative realities, not just the past that the real data reflects,” Plummer said. “Using high-quality and high-volume synthetic data is a powerful way to understand humans at scale.”

Synthetic data can serve as a proxy for real data, resulting in reduced collection, use or sharing of actual sensitive information. Basically, by using AI this way, we can depersonalize data, and synthetic data can be created faster and combined in ways humans would not have thought of, Plummer said. 

By 2027, low orbit satellites will extend internet coverage to an additional billion of the world’s poorest people, raising 50% of them out of poverty.

Low earth orbit (LEO) satellites will offer network/internet access on a global scale and provide an economic opportunity to many who don’t currently have the access. There is a race to develop these LEO-based systems that will significantly reduce the installation and operational costs of deploying a cellular base station in sparsely populated areas.

“With connectivity comes participation, both economically and politically, in the wider ecosystem,” Plummer said. “The addition of billions of newly connected ‘netizens’ will have a profound impact on the internet in terms of culture and content.”

Through 2026, a 30% increase in developer talent across Africa will help transform it into a world-leading startup ecosystem, rivaling Asia in venture fund growth.

Africa is becoming home to a ton of startups, and they are getting record amounts of investments, Plummer said. “Kenya, for example, is ‘Silicon Savannah’ with a $1 billion tech ecosystem that offers an attractive space for entrepreneurs, investors and technologists.” 

There are tons of workers who can be highly trained and offer new ways of thinking that will get better over time, Plummer said. In the next three years, there will be nearly 900,000 professional developers across Africa enabled by the rise of informal education channels. As this market continues to grow, global investors will reduce their venture investment in China in favor of this emerging market, Gartner predicts.

By 2024, a cyberattack will so damage critical infrastructure that a member of the G20 will reciprocate with a declared physical attack.

Could the rising impact and nature of some cyberattacks lead to an actual physical-world attack? Seems like a growing possibility.

A critical infrastructure attack can cause statewide devastation in a minute that might trigger a physical response, Plummer said. “We have to look to NATO and others to define what a response should be and avoid these things triggering a war,” Plummer said.

In the near term, enterprises will continue to bear the primary responsibility to defend against cyberattacks. However, enterprises have never been charged with serving as the first line of defense against warfare, so increasingly severe attacks will prompt military involvement, eventually deterring non-state actors from targeting critical infrastructure, Plummer said.

By 2024, 80% of CIOs surveyed will list modular business redesign, through composability, as a top 5 reason for accelerated business performance.

Agility is the name of the game, and the ability to quickly adapt to needs and situations will be increasingly important, Plummer said. Composability – the modular redesign of operational assets to minimize interdependencies – enables work to be recomposed quickly, easily and safely. It is a competitive addition to an organization’s toolbox that enables CIOs to master the risks of accelerating change, Plummer said. CIOs need to get on the bandwagon of composability, he said.

By 2026, non-fungible token (NFT) gamification will propel an enterprise into the top 10 highest valued companies.

A non-fungible token is a unique and non-interchangeable unit of data – like a photo, video, audio file or even a tweet that can be verified. With NFTs, people can build markets of uniquely digital assets that have monetary value and can be sold. People think NFTs are about art, but there’s much more to them, Plummer said. 

By 2024, Gartner predicts that 50% of publicly listed companies will have some sort of NFT underpinning their brand and/or digital ecosystem presence. NFTs will become a powerful marketing tool to underpin digital ecosystems’ effects and accelerate enterprise valuations.

By 2025, 75% of companies will “break up” with poor-fit customers as the cost of retaining them eclipses good-fit customer acquisition costs.

Companies will break up with you as a customer, Gartner predicts. As a rule, that doesn’t happen very often, but increasingly, if a customer is hard to maintain, that customer could be cut loose. “If it cost them too much money to maintain you –every year you want best deal, you're always unhappy or complaining, they will say, 'well we don’t need you…' and bring in new customers that are happy,” Plummer said.

Organizations often expunge poor-fit customers from sales pipelines, but few proactively identify and say goodbye to them after they’ve purchased a product or service; they might ‘ghost’ them, but they rarely outright cut them off. Yet, keeping a poor-fit customer can be costly, both in terms of time spent satisfying them as well as the opportunity costs, brand degradation and long-term profit erosion that can occur, Plummer said.

By 2027, a quarter of Fortune 20 companies will be supplanted by companies that neuromine and influence subconscious behavior at scale.

The idea here isn’t mind control but rather applying behavioral intelligence and related technology to analyze, understand and influence human behavior at scale, Plummer said. Mining the subconscious has been around for a long time – think subliminal messaging or MUSAK. The idea is to tap into what motivates people to increase productivity for example, Plummer said.

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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